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October 8, 2019

Employee Rights on Termination. Do You Know Yours?

Michael Wilhelmson

Losing your job is traumatic. The stress of worrying about your future can be compounded if your employer is pressuring you to sign a release or telling you what you can and cannot do about your situation. However, you should know that as an employee you do have rights and if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having your employment terminated it can help you cope and make plans if you have advice on your rights and options from an experienced employment law lawyer. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

Unfair or Inappropriate Notice Periods

EXAMPLE 1. You have worked 20 years for a company and given up other opportunities and chances of advancement with other companies. Why? Because you like the people you work with and hope to retire at this company. The economy in your industry takes a turn for the worse. Automation is eliminating jobs. You are asked to forgo promotions and a scheduled pay raise. You agree, because you are a team player. You want the company to succeed. Even so, you are eventually terminated and asked to accept 10 months’ pay in lieu of notice. The same economy that resulted in your termination means your chances of finding a similar job are slim. You are in your fifties and there are many younger people applying for the same jobs. You may need to retrain. Ten months just is not enough time for you to find new work. How will you manage? Worse still, the termination letter says in bold letters that you have only two weeks to sign the termination agreement or even the offer of 10-months’ notice will be withdrawn. You better sign, right?

Wrong.

Example 1 is an all-too-common experience for many Canadians in the so-called new economy. Fortunately, you have rights and the first step in understanding them is to contact an employment lawyer. Often inadequate notice can be addressed with a single letter from your lawyer to your employer. It is rare for such disputes to end up in court.

At Harris & Brun Law Corporation, our team of experienced employment lawyers can explain your rights and assist you through the process of negotiating an agreement with your employer. Often, the process is entirely amicable. For example, an employee who is terminated is entitled to either notice of termination (working notice) or pay in lieu of notice (termination pay) based upon the amount of service they have accumulated with the employer. The rule of thumb is one month notice for every year of service but every case is different, which is why talking to a lawyer about your particular circumstances is so important. Don’t delay.

As for the “two weeks to sign” threat, often such terms seem to be put into these letters for one purpose and one purpose only…. to rush you into an agreement favourable to your employer. Your lawyer can advise you as to the validity of such a clause. With respect to the “deadline,” your lawyer can likely obtain an extension or can advise you of your rights and the timelines under the law so as to give you a reasonable period of time to consider your course of action and organize your affairs for the transition.

Employee Dismissal Without Notice, Confidentiality, and Non-Compete Clauses

EXAMPLE 2. A senior employee is dismissed without notice. She believes this dismissal was wrongful and she knows she is going to need a lawyer but there is another problem. Her employer has warned her that she better not breach the confidentially provisions of her employment contract as well as restrictions on her ability to join a competing company. How is she going to pay the bills?

She definitely needs to talk to a lawyer.

In Example 2, consider whether you think it’s fair that the same employer who breaches a contract by wrongfully terminating you, should be able to rely on other parts of the contract to prevent you from earning a living? If you find yourself in the same shoes as the unfortunate employee in Example 2, we can advise you on the law, assist you in navigating the post-termination period, and also seek compensation from your employer for damages arising from your termination.

Please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Law Team at HBLC if you would like to speak with a lawyer about your options.

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